Peter Chow: The Wedding Crashers – Bride and Boom! 

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On August 29, the last drone attack was carried out by the United States in its 20-year war in Afghanistan,  described by General Mark Milley, the US military’s top-ranking officer, as a “righteous strike”  –  a Reaper drone firing a Hellfire missile after hours of surveillance Aug. 29 against a vehicle that U.S. officials thought contained an Islamic State bomb, an imminent threat to troops at Kabul’s airport.

Unfortunately, this surgical strike wasn’t quite so surgical, as the driver was identified as Zemari Ahmadi, an electrical engineer and longtime worker for a U.S. aid group, who had already applied for refugee resettlement in the United States.

He was planning on marrying his fiance the next day so that she could be included in his immigration application to America.

No terrorist.   No bomb.

Collateral damage – 10 innocent civilians besides Ahmadi, including 7 children, 3 of Ahmadi’s children and 3 of his brother’s children, including 2 3-yr-old twin girls.

Drone operator directing the strike from his computer screen in Omaha, Nebraska:   “Oooopsie…My bad.”

Being a drone strike operator means never having to say you’re sorry.

This was the latest in a long list of drone surgeries performed on the wrong patients

The headline  –  “Bride and Boom!”  –  was spectacularly amusing, if you think killing Muslims in desert lands is a blast and a half.

Of course, you have to imagine that smirk line in giant black letters with a monstrous exclamation point covering most of the bottom third of the front page of the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post.

The reference was to a caravan of vehicles on its way to a wedding in Kandahar province in Afghanistan that was eviscerated in 2020, by a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone, via one of those “surgical strikes” of which Washington and the Pentagon are so proud.

As the report put it, “Scorched vehicles and body parts were left scattered on the road.”

30 members of the wedding party were killed, 45 wounded, many very seriously.

It goes without saying that such a headline could only be applied to allegedly dangerous foreigners  –  “Taliban terrorists” or “Al Qaeda suspects”  –  in distant lands whose deaths carry a certain degree of weirdness and even amusement with them.

Try to imagine the equivalent for the Newtown massacre the day after Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School with his trusty AR-15 and massacred 20 children aged 6 to 7 and 6 teachers.

Since even the New York Post wouldn’t do such a thing, let’s imagine that the Kabul Post did that.

Playing off the phrase, “Head of the Class,” their headline was: “Dead of the Class!” (with that same giant exclamation point).

It would be sacrilege.

The media would descend.


The tastelessness of Muslims would be denounced all the way up to the White House.

You’d hear about the barbaric callousness of foreigners for days.

And if a wedding party were to be obliterated on a highway anywhere in America on the way to, say, a rehearsal dinner, it would be a 24/7 tragedy.

Our lives would be filled with news of it.

Count on that.

But a bunch of Arabs in a country few in the United States had ever heard of before we started sending in the drones?

No such luck.

So if you’re a Rupert Murdoch tabloid, it’s open season, no consequences guaranteed.

As it happens, “Bride and Boom!” isn’t even an original.   It turns out to be a stock Rupert Murdoch New York Post headline.

Google it and you’ll find that, since 9/11, the paper has used it at least twice before, and never for the good guys:  once in 2005, for “the first bomb-making husband and wife,” two Palestinian newlyweds;   and once in 2007, for a story about a “bride,” decked out in a “princess-style wedding gown,” with her groom in Iraq, their honeymoon abruptly aborted by a Hellfire missile.

This was at least the 9th wedding party reported wiped out,  since the Afghan War began in 2001.

The other wedding massacres with brief descriptions of what is known:

Paktia Province, Afghanistan – more than 100 wedding revelers die in a village in Eastern Afghanistan after an attack by B-52 and B-1 bombers.

Khost Province, Afghanistan – at least 10 Afghans in a wedding celebration die when U.S. helicopters and planes attack a village.

Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan – at least 40 wedding celebrants die when attacked by a B-52 bomber and an AC-130 gunship.

Mukaradeeb, Iraq –  45 dead, including members of the wedding party, their wedding guests, and even the band of musicians hired to play at the ceremony in a drone attack.

Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan – at least 47 dead, 39 of them women and children, including the bride, among a party escorting that bride to the groom’s house, from a drone strike.

Laghman Province, Afghanistan – 16 killed, including 12 members of the family hosting the wedding, in a drone strike.

Logar Province, Afghanistan – 18 killed, half of them children, when Taliban fighters take shelter amid a wedding party.  This was the only case among the eight wedding incidents in which the United States offered an apology.

Kandahar Province, Afghanistan – 37 killed, mostly women and children, and  27 others seriously wounded by a drone strike.

Sometimes whole wedding parties were blown up, sometimes just the bride or groom’s parties were hit.

Total dead from the 9 incidents: almost 300 Afghans, Iraqis and Yemenis.

And keep in mind that, in these years, weddings haven’t been the only rites hit.

U.S. air power has also struck other gatherings of Muslims ranging from funerals to a baby-naming ceremony.

Awesome Gender-Reveal party, bro!!

It was reported that this strike in Kandahar, like others before it, had, strangely enough, upset Afghans and made them more amenable to the propaganda of the Taliban.

Who would have thought?!?

In the end, reports on a wedding slaughter in a distant land are generally relegated to the inside pages of the paper and passing notice on the TV news, an event instantly trumped by almost anything whatsoever  –  a shooting in a school anywhere in the U.S., snow storms across the Northeast, you name it – and promptly buried and forgotten.

And yet, in a country that tends to value records, this represents record-making material.

After all, what are the odds of blowing up 9 wedding parties?

 

If the Taliban or the Iranians or the North Koreans had piled up such figures, we would know just what to think of them.

We would classify them as barbarians, savages, Satanic evildoers.

You might imagine that such a traffic jam of death and destruction would at least merit some longer-term attention, thought, analysis or discussion here.

But with the rarest of exceptions, it’s nowhere to be found.

And keep in mind that we’re talking about America where the slaughter of innocents  –  in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities, workplaces, shopping malls and movie theaters, parking lots and naval shipyards  –  is given endless attention, carefully toted up, discussed and debated until “closure” with thoughts and prayers is reached.

And yet no one here even thinks to ask how so many wedding parties in foreign lands could be so repeatedly taken out.

If “they” gather in certain regions, does American intelligence just assume that the crowd must be “enemy” in nature?

As an American general said about a wedding party attacked in western Iraq,  “How many people go to the middle of the desert… to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?”

 

In this same spirit, U.S. drone campaigns launch what in drone-speak are called “Signature Strikes“  –  that is, strikes not against identified individuals, but against “a pre-identified ‘signature’ of behaviour that the U.S. links to militant terrorist activity.”

In other words, the United States launches drone strikes against groups or individuals whose behaviour simply fits a “suspect” category:  young men of military age carrying weapons, for instance (in areas where carrying a weapon may be the norm no matter who you are).

In a more general sense, however, the obliterated wedding party may be the true signature strike of the post 9/11 era of American war-making, the strike that should, but never will, remind Americans that the Global War On Terror was and remains, for others in distant lands, a War Of Terror, a fearsome creation to which we are conveniently blind.

In 1976 an executive order was passed, stating: “No employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire in, political assassination.”

But, the US never totally abandoned the strategy, simply changing the terminology from Assassination to “Targeted Killings,” from assassinations of presidents to drone attacks on suspected or alleged terrorists.

Targeted killing is a modern euphemism for the assassination of an individual by a state entity outside a battlefield.  The Pentagon and the CIA describe targeted killing as legitimate when employed against terrorists or combatants engaged in asymmetrical warfare.

Use of targeted killings expanded, through use of combat drones operating in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen.

The Pentagon has said it had conducted at least 91,340 air strikes in 20 years, including over 14,000 drone  “targeted killings.”

The Pentagon estimates that “collateral damage” includes 2,200 civilians, including 454 children.

Critics say it is higher by at least one order of magnitude.

Airwars, a civilian harm monitoring group, has calculated that “US actions likely killed at least 22,679 innocent civilians, with that number potentially as high as 48,308”.

Consider it a record.

For the period since September 11, 2001, the U.S.A. is Number One… in obliterating wedding parties!!

In those years, whether anyone cares to know it or not, “till death do us part” has gained a far grimmer meaning.